The Race Myth, Racial Disparities in Health, and Why There Are So Few African American Evolutionists

Posted in Anthropology, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Interviews, Media Archive, United States, Videos on 2014-10-02 01:11Z by Steven

The Race Myth, Racial Disparities in Health, and Why There Are So Few African American Evolutionists

Evolution: This View of Life

David Sloan Wilson, Host and Distinguished Professor of Biology and Anthropology
State University of New York, Binghamton

Joseph L. Graves, Professor & Associate Dean for Research (author of The Race Myth: Why We Pretend Race Exists in America)
Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering
North Carolina A&T State University & University of North Carolina, Greensboro

In honor of Black History month, we are pleased to present an interview with Joseph L. Graves, a distinguished evolutionist and the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology. Prof. Graves explains why race is a myth, despite the undeniable fact of local adaptation. He also discusses his own research on aging, how an evolution-savvy diet saved his life, and the surprising reason why African-Americans are even less well represented in evolutionary biology than they are in science.

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Race in Contemporary Medicine

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2013-03-23 20:03Z by Steven

Race in Contemporary Medicine

208 pages
Hardback ISBN: 978-0-415-41365-7

Edited by:

Sander L. Gilman

With the first patent being granted to “BiDil,” a combined medication that is deemed to be most effective for a specific “race,” African-Americans for a specific form of heart failure, the on-going debate about the effect of the older category of race has been renewed. What role should “race” play in the discussion of genetic alleles and populations today? The new genetics has seemed to make “race” both a category that is seen useful if not necessary, as The New York Times noted recently: “Race-based prescribing makes sense only as a temporary measure.” (Editorial, “Toward the First Racial Medicine,” November 13, 2004) Should one think about “race” as a transitional category that is of some use while we continue to explore the actual genetic makeup and relationships in populations? Or is such a transitional solution poisoning the actual research and practice.

Does “race” present both epidemiological and a historical problem for the society in which it is raised as well as for medical research and practice? Who defines “race”? The self-defined group, the government, the research funder, the researcher? What does one do with what are deemed “race” specific diseases such as “Jewish genetic diseases” that are so defined because they are often concentrated in a group but are also found beyond the group? Are we comfortable designating “Jews” or “African-Americans” as “races” given their genetic diversity? The book answers these questions from a bio-medical and social perspective.

This book was previously published as a special issue of Patterns of Prejudice.


  • Introduction: On Race and Medicine in Historical Perspective. Sander L. Gilman (Emory)
  • Reflections on Race and the Biologization of Difference. Katya Gibel Azoulay (Grinnell)
  • Against Racial Medicine. Joseph L. Graves, Jr. (North Carolina A&T State University) & Michael R. Rose (University of California, Irvine)
  • Blood and Stories: How Genomics is Rewriting Race, Medicine and Human History. Patricia Wald (Duke)
  • “Why are Genetic and Medical Researchers Accepting a Category Created by Slaveholders?” A Social History of the Reification of “Race” James Downs (Princeton)
  • Eugenics and the Racial Genome: Politics at the Molecular Level. Sharon Snyder and David Mitchell (University of Illinois – Chicago)
  • The Risky Gene: Epidemiology and the Evolution of Race. Philip Alcabes (Hunter College School of Health Sciences)
  • Folk Taxonomy, Prejudice and the Human Genome: Using Heritable Disease as a Jewish Ethnic Marker. Judith S. Neulander (Case Western Reserve University)
  • The price of science without moral constraints: German and American medicine before DNA and Today. Robert E. Pollack (Columbia)
  • Deadly Medicine Today: The Impossible Denials of Racial Medicine. C. Richard King (Washington State University)
  • Biobanks of a “Racial Kind”: Mining for Difference in the New Genetics. Sandra Soo-Jin Lee (Stanford)
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Against racial medicine

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2012-05-13 00:14Z by Steven

Against racial medicine

Patterns of Prejudice
Volume 40, Numbers 4/5 (2006), Special Issue: Race and Contemporary Medicine
pages 481-493
DOI: 10.1080/00313220601020189

Joseph L. Graves Jr., Dean of University Studies; Professor of Biological Sciences
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Greensboro

Michael R. Rose, Director of the University of California Network for Experimental Research on Evolution; Professor of Biological Sciences
University of California, Irvine

Some scholars claim that recent studies of human genetic variation validate the existence of human biological races and falsify the idea that human races are socially constructed misconceptions. They assert that analyses of DNA polymorphisms unambiguously partition individuals into groups that are very similar to lay conceptions of race. Furthermore, they propose that this partitioning allows us to identify specific loci that can explain contemporary health disparities between the supposed human races. From this, it appears that racial medicine has risen again. In this essay Graves and Rose construct a case against racial medicine. Biological races in other species are strongly differentiated genetically. Because human populations do not have such strong genetic differentiation, they are not biological races. Nonetheless, the lack of population genetic knowledge among biomedical researchers has led to spuriously racialized human studies. But human populations are not genetically disjoint. Social dominance may lead to medical differences between socially constructed races. In order to resolve these issues, medicine should take both social environment and population genetics into account, instead of dubious ‘races’ that inappropriately conflate the two.

Racial medicine has risen again

Charles B. Davenport, one of the most respected scientists of the first decades of the twentieth century, argued that laziness was a hereditary trait. Davenport claimed in particular that laziness was a heredity character of Southern Whites. Later epidemiological studies determined that ‘white trash’ laziness was actually the result of heavy infections caused by the nematode necator americanus.  But, for Davenport and many other biologists of his time, the phenotypic differences displayed by particular populations were proof positive of the existence of human races. They believed that these races differed in readily observable features, such as skin colour and body proportions, and also in those they could not directly observe, such as intellect, morality, character, disease predisposition and resistance. In 1921, for example, Ernest Zimmerman published a report on differences in the manifestation of syphilis in Blacks and Whites. Such thinking helped to sanction the now infamous Tuskegee syphilis experiment.  Modern biologists recoil with horror when asked to revisit this sad episode in the history of science.

The rationale for the Tuskegee experiment was the underlying assumption that the Negro was genetically inferior to Whites. Thus, the perceived differences in incidence rates and progression of disease were thought to reside in characteristics intrinsic to the race, as opposed to the social conditions under which visibly darker-skinned persons of African descent lived in the United States. (It is significant that many ‘white Americans’ have African ancestors but ‘pass as white’, an anomaly to which we will return below.) Therefore, the Tuskegee experiment suffered not only from its moral shortcomings, but also from poor experimental design. The results of the experiment could not have distinguished between any genetically based difference in disease progression, since many environmental and social differences between African Americans and the Swedish cohorts with which they were to be compared were not properly controlled. With hindsight, the scientific problems of this experiment are obvious. What is not recognized is that modern discussions of race and medicine have not moved very far beyond the misconceptions that gave birth to the Tuskegee research programme...

…The identification of human races is not based on cogent biology

While humans have always recognized the existence of physical differences between groups, they haven’t always described those differences in racial terms. Racial theories of human differentiation were not a consistent theme of the ancient world, and really did not begin to flourish until after the European voyages of discovery in the fifteenth century. European naturalists of the eighteenth century were divided about the characterization of human differences. Almost all agreed that there was only one human species, yet they disagreed about whether there was a legitimate way to rank the various groups of humans hierarchically. For example, Carl Linneaus’s Systema Naturae (1735) classified human races partly on the basis of subjectively determined behavioural traits. It is not clear, however, what Linnaeus meant by the use of the term ‘race’. It seems that his classification scheme was describing subspecies of humans based on morphological features. According to it, European traits were clearly superior to others, and Africans were assigned the lowest rung in the hierarchy.

Such racist ideas were transplanted to America during colonial times, along with other biological absurdities. During American chattel slavery, the socially defined race of the offspring of slavemasters and slave women was ‘Negro’. Virginia law classified Eston Hemmings, who was 87.5 per cent European according to genetic ancestry, as ‘Negro’. Geneticists now suspect that Thomas Jefferson was his father, based on family genealogies and a genetic marker specific to the Jefferson family found in Eston’s descendants.

The one-drop rule (also called ‘hypo-descent’) in the United States differs from definitions of ‘blackness’ in Canada, Mexico, Britain and Brazil. Individuals, therefore, could move from one country to another and be classified differently according to the social custom. Indeed, in the United States, individuals have been born as a member of one race and died as a member of another. European ethnic groups, such as the Irish and Italians, did not become ‘white’ until the twentieth century. Such ‘races’ are clearly based on social conventions, as opposed to biological measures of genetic ancestry. Socially produced racial ideology from the very beginning influenced the collection and interpretation of data relating to human biological variation…

Read the entire article here.

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The Emperor’s New Clothes: Biological Theories of Race at the Millennium

Posted in Books, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2012-01-09 06:53Z by Steven

The Emperor’s New Clothes: Biological Theories of Race at the Millennium

Rutgers University Press
272 pages
14 figures, 24 tables
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8135-2847-2
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8135-3302-5

Joseph L. Graves, Jr., Professor & Associate Dean for Research
Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering
North Carolina A&T State University & University of North Carolina, Greensboro

In this groundbreaking book, Joseph Graves traces the development of thought about human genetic diversity. He argues that racism has persisted in our society because adequate scientific reasoning has not entered into the equation. Graves champions the scientific method, and explains how we may properly ask questions about the nature of population differentiation and how (if at all) we may correlate that diversity to differences in human capacity and behavior. He also cautions us to think critically about scientific findings that have historically been misused in controversies over racial differences in intelligence heritability, criminal behavior, disease predisposition, and other traits. Greek philosophy, social Darwinism, New World colonialism, the eugenics movement, intelligence testing biases, and racial health fallacies are just a few of the topics he addresses.

According to Graves, this country cannot truly address its racial problems until people understand that separate human races do not exist empirically. With the biological basis for race removed, racism becomes an ideology, one that can and must be expunged.

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The Race Myth: Why We Pretend Race Exists in America

Posted in Books, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Monographs, Social Science, United States on 2012-01-09 06:07Z by Steven

The Race Myth: Why We Pretend Race Exists in America

Plume an imprint of Penguin
June 2005
320 pages
5.35 x 7.99in
Paperback ISBN: 9780452286580

Joseph L. Graves, Professor & Associate Dean for Research
Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering
North Carolina A&T State University & University of North Carolina, Greensboro

Preeminent evolutionary biologist Joseph Graves proves once and for all that it doesn’t. Through accessible and compelling language, he makes the provocative argument that science cannot account for the radical categories used to classify people, and debunks ancient race-related fallacies that are still held as fact, from damaging medical profiles to misconceptions about sports. He explains why defining race according to skin tone or eye shape is woefully inaccurate, and how making assumptions based on these false categories regarding IQ, behavior, or predisposition to disease has devastating effects.

Demonstrating that racial distinctions are in fact social inventions, not biological truths, The Race Myth brings much-needed, sound science to one of America’s most emotionally charged debates.

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Biological v. Social Definitions of Race: Implications for Modern Biomedical Research

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, United States on 2012-01-09 05:51Z by Steven

Biological v. Social Definitions of Race: Implications for Modern Biomedical Research

The Review of Black Political Economy
Volume 37, Number 1 (2010)
pages 43-60
DOI: 10.1007/s12114-009-9053-3

Joseph L. Graves, Professor & Associate Dean for Research
Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering
North Carolina A&T State University & University of North Carolina, Greensboro

Misconceptions concerning the concordance of biological and social definitions of race are ongoing in American society. This problem extends beyond that of the lay public into the professional arena, especially that of biomedical research. This continues, in part, because of the lack of training of many biomedical practitioners in evolutionary thinking. This essay reviews the biological and social definitions of race, examining how understanding the evolutionary mechanisms of disease is crucial to addressing ongoing health disparities. Finally it concludes by laying bear the fallacies of “race-specific” medicine.

Read or purchase the article here.

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Race and Ethnicity in Society: The Changing Landscape, 3rd Edition

Posted in Anthologies, Asian Diaspora, Books, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Identity Development/Psychology, Judaism, Law, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Religion, Social Science, Social Work, United States on 2011-10-18 02:50Z by Steven

Race and Ethnicity in Society: The Changing Landscape, 3rd Edition

Cengage Learning
480 pages
ISBN-10: 1111519536; ISBN-13: 9781111519537

Edited by

Elizabeth Higginbotham, Professor of Sociology, Women’s Studies, and Criminology
University of Delaware

Margaret L. Andersen, Edward F. and Elizabeth Goodman Rosenberg Professor of Sociology
University of Delaware

This engaging reader is organized in four major thematic parts, subdivided into thirteen different sections. Part I (“The Social Basis of Race and Ethnicity”) establishes the analytical frameworks that are now being used to think about race in society. The section examines the social construction of race and ethnicity as concepts and experience. Part II (“Continuity and Change: How We Got Here and What It Means”) explores both the historical patterns of inclusion and exclusion that have established racial and ethnic inequality, while also explaining some of the contemporary changes that are shaping contemporary racial and ethnic relations. Part III (“Race and Social Institutions”) examines the major institutional structures in contemporary society and investigates patterns of racial inequality within these institutions. Persistent inequality in the labor market and in patterns of community, residential, and educational segregation continue to shape the life chances of different groups. Part IV (“Building a Just Society”) concludes the book by looking at both large-scale contexts of change, such as those reflected in the movement to elect the first African American president.

  • Major themes include coverage showing the diversity of experiences that now constitute “race” in the United States; teaching students the significance of race as a socially constructed system of social relations; showing the connection between different racial identities and the social structure of race; understanding how racism works as a belief system rooted in societal institutions; providing a social structural analysis of racial inequality; providing a historical perspective on how the racial order has emerged and how it is maintained; examining how people have contested the dominant racial order; exploring current strategies for building a just multiracial society.
  • Each section includes several pages of analysis that outline the main concepts to be covered, providing a clear initial roadmap for reading and a convenient resource students can use with assignments and while preparing for exams.
  • The text’s unique organization according to overarching themes and relevant subtopics, including identity, social construction of race, why race matters, inequality, and segregation, places the articles into a broader context to promote greater understanding.
  • This innovative text looks beyond a simple black/white dichotomy and focuses more broadly on an extremely wide range of ethnic groups, providing a much more realistic and useful exploration of key topics that is more relevant and compelling for today’s diverse student population.

Table of Contents

    • 1. The Social Construction of Race and Ethnicity
      • Introduction by Elizabeth Higginbotham and Margaret L. Andersen
      • 1. Howard F. Taylor, “Defining Race”
      • 2. Joseph L. Graves, Jr., “The Race Myth”
      • 3. Abby Ferber, “Planting the Seed: The Invention of Race”
      • 4. Karen Brodkin, “How Did Jews Become White Folks?”
      • 5. Michael Omi and Howard Winant, “On Racial Formation”—Student Exercises
    • 2. What Do You Think? Prejudice, Stereotyping, and Racism
      • Introduction by Elizabeth Higginbotham and Margaret L. Andersen
      • 6. Matthew Desmond and Mustafa Emirbayer, “American Racism in the Twenty-First Century”
      • 7. Charles A. Gallagher, “Color-Blind Privilege: The Social and Political Functions of Erasing the Color Line in Post Race America”
      • 8. Judith Ortiz Cofer, “The Myth of the Latin Woman: I Just Met a Girl Named Maria”
      • 9. Rainier Spencer, “Mixed Race Chic”
      • 10. Rebekah Nathan, “What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student”—Student Exercises
    • 3. Representing Race and Ethnicity: The Media and Popular Culture
      • Introduction by Elizabeth Higginbotham and Margaret L. Andersen
      • 11. Craig Watkins, “Black Youth and the Ironies of Capitalism”
      • 12. Fatimah N. Muhammed, “How to NOT Be 21st Century Venus Hottentots”
      • 13. Rosie Molinary, “María de la Barbie”
      • 14. Charles Springwood and C. Richard King, “‘Playing Indian’: Why Native American Mascots Must End”
      • 15. Jennifer C. Mueller, Danielle Dirks, and Leslie Houts Picca, “Unmasking Racism: Halloween Costuming and Engagement of the Racial Order”—Student Exercises
    • 4. Who Are You? Race and Identity
      • Introduction by Elizabeth Higginbotham and Margaret L. Andersen
      • 16. Beverly Tatum, interview with John O’Neil, “Why are the Black Kids Sitting Together?”
      • 17. Priscilla Chan, “Drawing the Boundaries”
      • 18. Michael Omi and Taeku Lee, “Barack Like Me: Our First Asian American President”
      • 19. Tim Wise, “White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son”—Student Exercises
    • 5. Who Belongs? Race, Rights, and Citizenship
      • Introduction by Elizabeth Higginbotham and Margaret L. Andersen
      • 20. Evelyn Nakano Glenn, “Citizenship and Inequality”
      • 21. C. Matthew Snipp, “The First Americans: American Indians”
      • 22. Susan M. Akram and Kevin R. Johnson, “Race, Civil Rights, and Immigration Law After September 11, 2001: The Targeting of Arabs and Muslims”
      • 23. Peggy Levitt, “Salsa and Ketchup: Transnational Migrants Saddle Two Worlds”—Student Exercises
    • 6. The Changing Face of America: Immigration
      • Introduction by Elizabeth Higginbotham and Margaret L. Andersen
      • 24. Mae M. Ngai, “Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America”
      • 25. Nancy Foner, “From Ellis Island to JFK: Education in New York’s Two Great Waves of Immigration”
      • 26. Charles Hirschman and Douglas S. Massey, “Places and Peoples: The New American Mosaic”
      • 27. Pew Research Center, “Between Two Worlds: How Young Latinos Come of Age in America”—Student Exercises
    • 7. Exploring Intersections: Race, Class, Gender and Inequality
      • Introduction by Elizabeth Higginbotham and Margaret L. Andersen
      • 28. Patricia Hill Collins, “Toward a New Vision: Race, Class and Gender as Categories of Analysis and Connection”
      • 29. Yen Le Espiritu, “Theorizing Race, Gender, and Class”
      • 30. Roberta Coles and Charles Green, “The Myth of the Missing Black Father”
      • 31. Nikki Jones, “From Good to Ghetto”
      • 32. Gladys García-Lopez and Denise A. Segura, “‘They Are Testing You All the Time’: Negotiating Dual Femininities among Chicana Attorneys”—Student Exercises
    • 8. Race and the Workplace
      • Introduction by Elizabeth Higginbotham and Margaret L. Andersen
      • 33. William Julius Wilson, “Toward a Framework for Understanding Forces that Contribute to or Reinforce Racial Inequality”
      • 34. Deirdre A. Royster, “Race and The Invisible Hand: How White Networks Exclude Black Men from Blue-Collar Jobs”
      • 35. Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo, “Families on the Frontier”.
      • 36. Angela Stuesse, “Race, Migration and Labor Control”—Student Exercises
    • 9. Shaping Lives and Love: Race, Families, and Communities
      • Introduction by Elizabeth Higginbotham and Margaret L. Andersen
      • 37. Joe R. Feagin and Karyn D. McKinney, ”The Family and Community Costs of Racism”
      • 38. Dorothy Roberts, “Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare”
      • 39. Kumiko Nemoto, “Interracial Relationships: Discourses and Images”
      • 40. Zhenchao Qian, “Breaking the Last Taboo: Interracial Marriage in America”—Student Exercises
    • 10. How We Live and Learn: Segregation, Housing, and Education
      • Introduction by Elizabeth Higginbotham and Margaret L. Andersen
      • 41. John E. Farley and Gregory D. Squires, “Fences and Neighbors: Segregation in the 21st Century”
      • 42. Melvin L. Oliver and Thomas M. Shapiro, “Sub-Prime as a Black Catastrophe”
      • 43. Gary Orfield and Chungmei Lee, “Historic Reversals, Accelerating Resegregation and the Need for New Integration Strategies”
      • 44. Heather Beth Johnson and Thomas M. Shapiro, “Good Neighborhoods, Good Schools: Race and the ‘Good Choices’ of White Families”—Student Exercises
    • 11. Do We Care? Race, Health Care and the Environment
      • Introduction by Elizabeth Higginbotham and Margaret L. Andersen
      • 45. H. Jack Geiger, “Health Disparities: What Do We Know? What Do We Need to Know? What Should We Do?”
      • 46. Shirley A. Hill, “Cultural Images and the Health of African American Women”
      • 47. David Naguib Pellow and Robert J. Brulle, “Poisoning the Planet: The Struggle for Environmental Justice”
      • 48. Robert D. Bullard and Beverly Wright, “Race, Place and the Environment”—Student Exercises
    • 12. Criminal Injustice? Courts, Crime, and the Law
      • Introduction by Elizabeth Higginbotham and Margaret L. Andersen
      • 49. Bruce Western, “Punishment and Inequality”
      • 50. Rubén Rumbaut, Roberto Gonzales, Goinaz Kamaie, and Charlie V. Moran, “Debunking the Myth of Immigrant Criminality: Imprisonment among First and Second Generation Young Men”
      • 51. Christina Swarns, “The Uneven Scales of Capital Justice”
      • 52. Devah Pager, “The Mark of a Criminal Record”—Student Exercises
    • 13. Moving Forward: Analysis and Social Action
      • Introduction by Elizabeth Higginbotham and Margaret L. Andersen
      • 53. Thomas F. Pettigrew, “Post-Racism? Putting Obama’s Victory in Perspective”
      • 54. Frank Dobbins, Alexandra Kalev, and Erin Kelly, “Diversity Management in Corporate America”
      • 55. Southern Poverty Law Center, “Ways to Fight Hate”—Student Exercises
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Our Problems with Race: Addressing Biological Versus Social Definitions

Posted in Health/Medicine/Genetics, Live Events, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2009-10-19 21:55Z by Steven

Our Problems with Race: Addressing Biological Versus Social Definitions

Appalachian State University
Blue Ridge Ballroom PSU
Wednesday, 2009-10-28 19:00 EDT (Local Time)                                   

Joseph L. Graves, Jr, Dean of University Studies and Professor of Biological Sciences
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University

What does evolution tell us about race and what are we taught to believe about race? What are the implications for how we view, group, and value others?  Using his research background in evolutionary biology, Dr. Joseph L. Graves, Jr. explains how most Americans still believe that there is some biological legitimacy to our socially constructed racial categories despite the modern scientific evidence that discredits all of our social stereotypes. Dr. Graves has written two books that address the myths and theories of race in American society. He has published over 50 papers and book chapters and has appeared in six documentary films and numerous television interviews on these general topics.

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